Dick Vitale was quoted yesterday to say Gonzaga would lose their next game against Wichita State, given their poor performance against Southern.
Do I agree with Dicky V.?
The short answer is a resounding “NO!” The long answer is a bit more complicated than that…
Here’s a quick history lesson. In 1989, #1 seed Georgetown beat Princeton by 1, 50-49. They went on to win their next game by 13. In the same year, #1 seed Oklahoma beat East Tennessee St. by 1, 72-71. They won their next game by 43, 124-81.
Yes, Gonzaga’s win against Southern was the smallest margin of victory for a #1 seed since 1996. And the game was tied with less than four minutes to play. That’s why they play 40 minutes, not 36.
In 1982, #1 seed North Carolina beat #9 seed James Madison 52-50 in the second round. NC went on to beat Alabama, Villanova, Houston, and Georgetown to win the tournament.
In 1983, NC State won 5 of their 6 games by a total margin of 13 points (two games by one, two games by two, and one game by seven…they beat Utah by 19 in the Sweet Sixteen) and went on to win the tournament.
In 1993, eventual runners-up, #1 seed Michigan, beat UCLA by only two in the second round.
I could keep listing situations where teams who eventually won (or went to the Championship Game) had a close-call with a team they should beat. It happens almost every year, and that’s what we all love about the NCAA Tournament. Every game is a new game, especially in the NCAA Tournament.
The Zags could absolutely lose their game against Wichita State on Saturday. But it won’t be because of their performance against Southern. It won’t be because Elias Harris went 2-10 a day ago. It won’t be because Southern had eight blocks while Gonzaga had zero. It will be because Wichita State outplays them (more specifically, out-rebounds them).
Gonzaga also has a blessing disguised as a curse. They can compete with anyone. In turn, that also means anyone can compete with Gonzaga. And though they won 31 games this season, there were a few close calls with teams who had no business competing with a #1 seed in the Tournament (i.e. San Diego).
Hold on to your butts, Zags fans. Your team is bound to put a few more gray hairs on your noggin before the end of this tournament.
*As I write this, I realize the #3, #4, and #5 seed in the West Region have been knocked out in the Round of 64 (first time EVER that has happened in the same region)…clearing the way for Gonzaga, perhaps?*
If you missed all the college basketball going on this week thus far, you really missed out.
Three of the top four teams lost, including #1 ranked Indiana (Lost to Minnesota) and #3 ranked Duke (lost to Virginia). It also includes #4 ranked Michigan, who lost to Penn State. For the record, that is Penn State’s ONLY Big Ten Conference win thus far.
Something you might notice is #2 ranked Gonzaga is not in the group I listed above. On Thursday night, they were able to go into Provo, UT on Senior night, in front of nearly 20,000 fans and pull off a 70-65 victory over an inspired BYU team (isn’t every team inspired to beat Gonzaga though?).
Thanks to 19 points from the (you heard it here first) All-American, Kelly Olynyk, and 15 from Gary Bell Jr., the Zags held off a late-game surge by the Cougars to preserve their unblemished Conference record.
With these losses by Indiana, Duke, and Michigan, and assuming the Zags can beat Portland (11-19, 4-11 WCC) there is very little chance that any team will jump Gonzaga for the top ranking in the land. And as much as I dislike being the contrarian to my esteemed “colleague,” it is Gonzaga’s time.
One might be able to make a case that Gonzaga’s strength of schedule (SOS) is not that of Indiana or Michigan, and it shows in Joe Lunardi’s “Braketology.” Gonzaga’s SOS is 75, while Indiana’s is 24 and Michigan’s is 55. However, that’s why the Hoosiers and Wolverines, alike, can have twice as many losses and still be ranked above the Zags (before this week, at least).
The Zags have lost two games this year – an early season matchup against Illinois, and a buzzer-beater to Butler in Indianapolis. Both of those teams are in the top 50 RPI. They’ve won EVERYTHING ELSE. They crushed the likes of Oklahoma and Kansas State, they went to Stillwater and beat Oklahoma State, and they handled Saint Mary’s in both conference matchups (including a 17-point win in Moraga). This year, Gonzaga has beaten their conference foes by an average of 19 points. 19 POINTS!
As the regular season comes to an end, it is no longer about SOS or RPI or BPI or even ranking. It’s about who can win in the spotlight. And quite frankly, Gonzaga can play with any team out there.
They have a big man in Olynyk who has outside touch. Elias Harris is a guy who plays bigger than his 6’8” frame with a solid jump shot. They have exceptional guards in Kevin Pangos, Bell Jr., and David Stockton. They also have a number of guys in the bench who can contribute.
Sam Dower is a big man with inside finesse and the ability to knock down 20-footers. They also have Drew Barham – a guy who shoots .468 from behind the arc.
Gonzaga also has Hart. Sure they have “heart” as well, but the source of that heart is Mike Hart. Hart is from Portland, OR and walked on in 2008. He was not recruited by anyone. Now, he starts for one of the top teams in the land. A guy doesn’t get to where Hart is without unrelenting hustle and determination. I invite anyone to watch a Gonzaga game and follow Mike Hart around the court. I guarantee you’ll be tired just watching him.
It is now March, sports fans. It is time for bets, brackets, and buzzer-beaters. Who will be your pick to win it all? My pick will most likely be a team who hails from Spokane, Washington.
Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli/Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers…these are all names synonymous with NFL greatness. However, they aren’t the ones playing for ultimate glory in the “Big Game” this weekend. The men fighting for the Lombardi Trophy are Colin Kaepernick and Joe Flacco – two greenhorns to the Big Game’s spotlight.
Honestly, I will be watching this game mostly to see if there will be any wardrobe malfunctions at halftime, as I think most people will. The entire country, other than the cities of Baltimore and San Francisco, would rather see a game between Rodgers and Manning, or Brady and Matty Ice (Matt Ryan).
But hold the smart-phone; let’s see if we can make this game a bit more interesting for the layman.
The 49ers have been anything but consistent this year. We’ve seen them end in a tie AND lost to the St. Louis Rams, who were 7-8-1 this year. Then, only a few weeks later, they went into Foxboro and (more or less) obliterate the Patriots. Granted the Pats made a resilient comeback, all for naught, but Kaepernick made New England’s secondary look like the University of Nevada-Reno’s practice squad. Since Seattle put the hurt on them in week 16, San Fran has been nothing short of dominant. They took care of Green Bay 45-31, and then came back against the Falcons in Atlanta to win the NFC Championship.
Frankly, Colin Kaepernick is a menace. He’s big, he’s mobile, and he’s becoming more accurate with each pass attempt. In the same way Russell Wilson has grown tremendously over the course of the 2012 season, Kaepernick has done the same in half the time (arguably). In the two postseason games this year, has rushed for 202 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown scamper against Green Bay, and has a QBR of 94.1. Compare that to Flacco’s 2012 postseason QBR of 77.5. Kaepernick also has a better completion percentage and a better TD/INT ratio over the course of 2012.
Speaking of Flacco, he’s somewhat of an anomaly, as are the Baltimore Ravens. I mentioned his QBR and TD/INT ratio (2.1/1) over the entire 2012 season. In this post season, he’s thrown EIGHT TDs and zero interceptions. After beating the Colts, he was able to beat Peyton Manning in Denver while only completing just over 50 percent of his passes. He threw three TDs in that game, including an essential last minute touchdown to Jacoby Jones over a back-pedaling safety. Quite honestly, Baltimore only won that game because of an incompetent Denver secondary, which ranked 3rd in passing defense during the regular season. You wouldn’t have been able to tell that night.
The next week against New England, Flacco threw another three touchdowns. Flacco, a self-proclaimed elite NFL quarterback, has never thrown for 3+ TDs in back-to-back games, let alone in the playoffs. Flacco might be having an out-of-body experience, but he’s well on his way to being considered “elite” by someone other than his mother, Karen.
Don’t forget the old guys playing defense for the Ravens. Ray Lewis and maybe Ed Reed are fast approaching the last game of their storied careers. Lewis has been more emotional than my pregnant wife these last few weeks, which is somewhat acceptable, I guess. The guy probably sustained as many concussions as he so graciously gave to other players, so I’ll give him a pass for crying as much as he has.
So here’s what we have on Sunday:
A guy who might be considered to be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league in Kaepernick, versus an old and emotional defense with a quarterback who probably doesn’t realize what he’s done over the past two weeks, which is beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady ON THE ROAD. Keep in mind, the Ravens ended their season losing four out of five, including a losses to Charlie Batch and Andy Dalton in weeks 13 and 17, respectively.
With all this being said, Super Bowl XLVII probably won’t be as exciting as a game with Brady and one of the Mannings. But let’s not make any judgments beforehand. Kaepernick has an opportunity to prove he can compete at this level, and Flacco has a chance to prove what he’s been trying to prove for so long… that he’s a proven elite QB.
At the very least, you should record the game. That way you’ll still be able to tune into any of Beyoncé’s possible wardrobe malfunctions while fast-forwarding through this potential snooze-fest.
The past few weeks have been exhausting if you’re a fan of the former Seattle Supersonics. Rumors started floating around that the Maloof family was looking to sell the team. Then came rumors of the Hansen Group getting involved. Now, The Maloofs and the Hansen Group have a signed sale of the Sacramento Kings, which would give Hansen the power to move the team. Are you excited yet?
Not so fast, my friend. At least that’s what Kevin Johnson, former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor, is telling the city of Seattle.
Over the past few years, Sacramento has found a way to keep their only professional sports team. In 2011, Johnson bought the city time to work out a deal with the Maloofs for a new stadium. However, that fell through as Maloofs did not think the deal was a good financial deal for the team.
Now, with the Maloofs selling, Johnson is gathering a large group of investors in an effort to pool enough money to keep the Kings in Sacramento. He says he has 20 people who have pledged at least $1 million each. That includes billionaire, Mark Mastrov, founder of 24-hour Fitness.
The Hansen Group and Maloofs have submitted a purchase agreement to the NBA Board of Governors. But until the sale is approved, the Maloofs can still receive other offers. Johnson intends to submit just that before the relocation deadline of March 1st.
This is where things get interesting. Johnson has proven on many occasions that he is capable of saving the Kings from certain “death” (by relocation). If he continues gathering funds as he has, the future of the Kings may not be in Seattle.
The Maloofs only selling 65 percent of the franchise, meaning they will collect $340 million (of the $525 million that the team is worth to the Hansen Group). That means Johnson must come up with at least that in order to put up a fight against Hansen. Mastrov is almost capable of doing that himself.
Here’s the point. Yes – the Maloofs have agreed to sell to the Hansen Group. That’s a huge step in the right direction. But, DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP, Seattle. There is still a lot of time before this deal is made official.
Johnson added this in an address to the city of Sacramento. He said, “Seattle had some of the best fans in the NBA…Incredible fans. And when they lost their team a couple years ago, it was devastating to me, because those fans fought like crazy and rallied and they cheered on the home team. And I strongly believe they deserve an NBA team at some point. Just not ours.”
I applaud your efforts, KJ, I really do. But I really hope they’re all for naught.
RJ – All-Pro Team
QB: Peyton Manning, DEN
What a comeback this guy had this year! Leading an offense who, last year, relied solely on The Lord’s graces, to the 5th best passing offense in the league. They were 31st last year. This is also his 1st year in the Denver system. I’m sure John Fox just told Manning to run whatever offense he felt necessary. Regardless, his performance this year is impressive.
RB: Adrian Peterson, MIN; Ray Rice, BAL
AP is an easy choice here. Picking a second was a bit more difficult. In my eyes, Ray Rice deserves this because of his versatility. He runs hard AND catches the ball very well. Marshawn Lynch isn’t on this list for that exact reason. He has hands like feet when it comes to catching a pass in the flats.
WR: Calvin Johnson, DET; Brandon Marshall, CHI
Megatron, like AP, was an easy choice. He broke the single season receiving yards record this year. Brandon Marshall is on here for two reasons. 1) He had a great year with the second-most receptions in 2012 (tied with Welker). 2) Everyone knows the Chicago offense goes through him, yet he still was able to put up these numbers.
FB: Vonta Leach, BAL
Baltimore is a run-heavy team, for the most part. And like Chicago, the offense runs through one person mostly, Ray Rice. Leach opens big holes while in a pretty good defensive division…and he shares a name with my favorite college Football coach.
TE: Jason Witten, DAL
The only reason Gronky Punch isn’t on here is because he broke his arm during a field goal attempt. Also, Witten is very good at both aspects of a Tight End’s job. He obviously catches the ball and isn’t afraid to take a hit, but he blocks extremely well. Plus, in my book, there’s no better play than the “block, then release for a reception,” and Witten is just about perfected it.
T: Joe Thomas, CLE; Tyson Clabo, ATL
G: Mike Iupati, SF; Jahri Evans, NO
C: Max Unger, SEA
All these Offensive Lineman are John Clayton’s picks. And since I respect Clayton’s beastly ponytail and his love for Seattle grunge rock, I decided to agree with him. And it’s very hard to quantify the work these guys do.
PK: Blair Walsh, MIN
Blair Walsh is 10 for 10 from beyond 50 yards. Enough said…
KR: Jacoby Jones, BAL
This guy averages more than 1.5 yards more per return than anyone else in the league (30.7 yds/ret). It may not sound like a lot, but…well, maybe it’s not a lot. My point is he’s more efficient than any other kick returner. He also is 5th in average yards per punt return among players who returned more than 20 punts (9.2 yds/ret). He’s also one of only two guys with 3 Return TDs.
DE: JJ Watt, HOU; Charles Johnson, CAR
QBs check their closet for JJ Watt every night. JJ Watt will never have a heart attack because his heart isn’t nearly foolish enough to attack him. JJ “Swatt” batted 16 balls down this year, to go along with his 20.5 sacks. He is probably the most feared DE in the league. Charles Johnson forced seven fumbles this year, which is the most for a D-lineman.
DT: Vince Wilfork, NE; Geno Atkins, CIN
Atkins had the most sacks and the 2nd most tackles among DTs. I don’t think he’s very well-known, but Atkins has quietly become a force to be reckoned with, from the inside. Wilfork lost a ton if weight from last year. His ability to stay relevant at his age is uncanny and deserves to be recognized. He may not have the stats, but that may be because teams don’t run up the middle against the Patriots.
OLB: Aldon Smith, SF; Von Miller, DEN
Aldon Smith and Von Miller had 19.5 and 18.5 sacks this year, respectively. I think that says enough, as they both averaged more than a sack per game. I wish good luck to any running back that has to try to block these guys on a blitz.
ILB: Patrick Willis, SF; James Lauranaitis, STL
Patrick Willis has been in the league for quite some time now. He’s definitely made a name for himself. His stats aren’t a great measure of how good he is, but he’s the type of guy to go out on the field with a broken hand and make QBs quiver, just at his presence.
CB: Richard Sherman, SEA; Charles Tillman, CHI
Sherman batted more passes down than any other DB in the league (24). That’s a DB’s job…and he’s the best at it. He was also 2nd in INTs (8)…also part of a DB’s job. Sherman is a no-brainer pick. I think Tillman is a pretty easy pick as well. He may give up more catches than some, but it’s only to give himself the opportunity to punch the bejesus out of the football trying a force a fumble. He forced 10 fumbles this year, which is SIX more than any other DB.
S: Morgan Burnett, GB; Earl Thomas, SEA
Among Safeties, Burnett had the most tackles. For a DB, that may be mis-leading since the tackles might be down the field. But he also had two sacks, which is only one below the leading DB. Earl Thomas definitely is a presence down field. His stats don’t point to a whole lot. He only had three INTs, which should have been closer to TEN (there’s a reason he’s not a WR). He didn’t have a ton of tackles, or sacks. But if the country were to watch him on a weekly basis like we do, there would be a lot of buzz around this safety.
P: Thomas Morstead, MIA
This pick is purely statistical. He has the 2nd highest average punt distance at 50.1 yds and the best net punt yardage in the league (43.2 yds)
Brad – All-Pro Team
QB: Matt Ryan, ATL
Matty Ice lead the Falcons to a 13-3 record, nearly tossed for 5,000 yards along with a ton of TD’s and nearly a 70% completion percentage. He got knocked in QBR due to some picks, but hey – win some, lose some. Plus, anyone with a nickname after my favorite beer (don’t believe what anyone tells you, the nickname is based deeply in the roots of Natural Ice), and he is an All-Pro.
RB: Adrian Peterson, MIN; Marshawn Lynch, SEA
AP is a no brainer. He finishes 9 yards short of Dickerson’s record by putting Minnesota on his back to get them to the playoffs. Then, Beast Mode. If AP doesn’t do what he does – everyone is on Beast. This guy is 3rd in the league in rushing (because the Hawks have been up so much, that’s why Alfred Morris has a few more carries and barely any more yards), along with a receiving TD and an attitude that carries this team. Long live Beast.
WR: Calvin Johnson, DET; Brandon Marshall, CHI
I am with RJ on this one – these guys were heads and shoulders better than the rest. With the exception of my dark horse, TY Hilton for offensive ROY, nobody put it on like these two guys did.
FB: Michael Robinson, SEA
A little bit of a homer pick, but he opens holes for beast, catches touchdowns and just straight up plows people. Did you see Courtland Finnegan get dismissed in the Rams game? Seriously, get out of MRob’s way. Plus, the Real Rob Report is pretty funny.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, NE
I know he didn’t play all year, but if you take out the games played stat in the mix, his stats were basically better than anyone else’s. I almost went Witten here, but not enough touchdowns for me to give him the nod.
T: Joe Thomas, CLE; Russell Okung, SEA
I will admit, this is a little hard for me to quantify because these guys are GOOD, but I don’t have numbers to necessarily back any of it up. So I am going to go with the ol’ reliable scouting eye, and give you this. Joe Thomas comes from Wisconsin. Most OL’s that come from there are pretty good. He also made the Pro Bowl, so he is though high of. I like him. Okung – didn’t get injured. Only allowed 2 sacks apparently. That’s what makes Russell Wilson good folks, FYI.
G: Mike Iupati, SF; Logan Mankins, NE
Guards are even harder to quantify. Using the same rationale, Iupati came from Idaho, and anyone that is drafted from Idaho and gets PT should be an All-Pro in my book. I wanted Seattle to draft him that year but it just wasn’t meant to be. As for Logan Mankins, I know he is good because he is also going to the Pro Bowl, and Logan – that son of a bitch!
C: Max Unger, SEA
Unger feels like he has been playing for the Seahawks forever, but in reality, he is just in his fourth season. One of the last classes of the previous regime, he found a way to keep his job because he is really good. I think Carroll found something in the way he warms up. This guy is something special.
PK: Greg Zuerlein, STL
Kickers really don’t ever impress me. They just go out, kick a ball and that’s about it. There are times that they are under more pressure than most players, but when you get to the NFL level, kicking FG’s under 45 yards should be like John Stockton at the free throw line. Just money. I went with Greg because not only can he do that, he can also kick from like 75. He is also from Missouri Western State. Wait, where?
KR: Jacoby Jones, BAL
I wanted to go Trindon Holliday, but he is more of a punt returner than a kick returner and has gone undefeated in every game he has played in this season. Leon Washington would also be solid but it would be such a flagrant Seattle picking by myself, I couldn’t do it. So I went with Jacoby, because he leads the league in most KR stats and I think this is the only thing he can do. He used to play WR, but now I don’t think he lines up there anymore.
DE: JJ Watt, HOU; Jared Allen, MINN
These two guys combined for 32.5 sacks. That’s a lot of sacks, and I want that many dongers out of someone on the Mariners this year. Hitting a half donger might be hard, but hey – their offense, I will take it. Also, this might have been a “down year” for Jared Allen, but if this is bad for a guy doing what he does at his age, I want to be that awesome. Wait, I kind of already am.
DT: Justin Smith, SF; Vince Wilfork, NE
Justin Smith is a huge part of that SF defense. Too bad he got injured, because maybe that Seahawks game might have been a lot closer, like 35-10 or something like that. I am giving Vince the nod because of his age. You get above 30 in this league and you might as well just be dead. However, both of these guys are past that mark and still playing at a high level.
OLB: Aldon Smith, SF; Von Miller, DEN
I hear that Von Miller is one of the smartest players in the league. He also wears some pretty sick glasses in post-game interviews, and I think set the trends for LeBron, Dwayne and everyone else to copy his style. Plus, let’s face it – they both get after the QB. I don’t want to give Aldon any credit though, even though he is good. This is the most praise I will give him.
ILB: Bobby Wagner, SEA; Luke Kuechly, CAR
A couple of dark horses here. Bobby Wagner is up for serious consideration for defensive ROY and has been the leader of arguably one of the best defenses in the NFL. He also has 85 tackles, which puts him above names like AJ Hawk and three behind Patrick Willis. That’s some good company. I went with Luke because he had even more tackles (103) and seemed to be the only player on the Carolina Panthers that gives a damn. He is going to be good when they get that together.
CB: Richard Sherman, SEA; Tim Jennings, CHI
I don’t have to say much about Sherm. If this guy can keep this up, he is going to go down as one of the greats. RJ, seriously with Peanut? That guy is overrated. Tim Jennings was the real talent on that Chicago team that crapped the bed.
S: Ed Reed, BAL; Earl Thomas, SEA
Ed Reed is old, probably getting by on his name, but still – one of the best to ever play the position. Plus, he is one of the last greats from the “U” - a team that needs to be good again in college football. Then with Earl, if he could catch better, I would have listed his name first. But when he does pick off the ball, man, he is lethal.
P: Chris Kluwe, MINN
Punters are worse than kickers, unless you are Rick Tuten and you are the strongest pound for pound player in the NFL with a linebacker facemask. But since I have to pick one, I am going to go with Kluwe because he is funny and is all up on people on Twitter for being stupid. He also speaks out about gay rights and I like that. There aren’t enough pro athletes like Kluwe, who even tell off senators.
Ben – All-Pro Team
QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB
How did this dude fly under the radar all year? He had more touchdown passes than Peyton Manning, less interceptions and led the league in quarterback rating. This all happened while missing Greg Jennings for most the year and Jordy Nelson for a good chunk. Fantasy owners of James Jones should send Rodgers a thank you card.
RB: Adrian Peterson, MIN; Marshawn Lynch, SEA
One word on Peterson, duh. Lynch would have been a runaway second place finisher in yards, if the Seahawks weren’t dropping fifty spots on teams at the end of the season and resting Lynch in the second half.
WR: Calvin Johnson, DET; Brandon Marshall, CHI
Do I really need to tell you about Megatron? I didn’t think so. Marshall was seriously the only receiver on his team and still no one could guard him. I got a number for you, 1,133. That is number of yards between Marshall and the next highest total by a Bears’ receiver. Defenses knew where the ball was going and couldn’t stop him.
FB: Jerome Felton, MIN
I got to be honest with you, never heard of this guy. I honestly thought Jim Kleinsasser was still there, but when your tailback goes for 2,000+ you get my vote.
TE: Jason Witten, DAL
I wanted to put Gronk, but that guy breaks his arm on field goals. Witten broke the single game record and season record for catches by a tight end. I have been saying this since my high school days, the tight end is always open.
T: Russell Okung, SEA; Matt Kalil, MIN
Big time running backs got big time lineman. These guys paved the way for their respective running backs. Not to mention sacks weren’t really an option if you were a defensive end on their side.
G: Mike Iupati, SF; Jahri Evans, NO
Two words, meat and potatoes.
C: Mike Pouncey, MIA
I wanted to put Max Unger here, but I felt like Pouncey did more with less. They Dolphins weren’t exactly a great team, but some how Reggie Bush put up almost 1,000 yards. He isn’t the type of back that gets 300 carries either.
PK: Blair Walsh, MIN
All I have to say is he didn’t miss an extra point all season. I am just joking, this dude was nails from deep. He was the master of the five point fantasy field goal, going 10-10.
KR: Jacoby Jones, BAL
I care about one thing with kick returns and that is touchdowns. The new rules have essentially taken away the most exciting play in football. It takes a real pair of hang-downs to even take it out anymore. Jones averaged the most yards per return and had the most TDs with two.
DE: J.J. Watt, HOU; Charles Johnson, CAR
J.J. “Swatt” led the league in sacks and continued his reputation for batting down balls. He was publicized enough that I don’t need to talk about him more. Johnson on the other hand, no one talked about. He had a crap defense around him and still handled business with 12.5 sacks. That takes some real talent. Outside of Luke Kuechly, name another defensive player on the Panthers. Is Chris Gamble still there?
DT: Justin Smith, SF; Brandon Mebane, SEA
Justin Smith makes Aldon Smith good. Aldon gets all the glory, because of his sack total. How many sacks did he get when Justin went down? Did you guess zero? Gold star for you. Mebane has played a quieter role. A sign a defensive tackle is really good is how many tackles his middle linebacker has. Bobby Wagner finished second among rookies in tackles, seventh overall.
OLB: Von Miller, DEN; Aldon Smith, SF
I love me some Von Miller. I wanted him so bad the year he got drafted. My dreams are of his awesome glasses being Seahawks colors. If the Seahawks had a farm system, I would want them to trade the whole thing. Did you see his sexy safety dance? Here you go. Who else was I supposed to talk about? Oh yeah, Aldon Smith. He is pretty good, too.
ILB: Luke Kuechly, CAR; Vontaze Burfict, CIN
I went rookies here. I would have put Bobby Wagner, but I don’t want to be a homer. Burfict is crazy and I am thinking Kuechly is too. You have to have crazy to play inside in the NFL. Bengals and Panthers are set for a long time.
CB: Richard Sherman, SEA; Charles Tillman, CHI
I am trying to get the Sherman Sanctuary to catch on. It is very similar to Revis Island, but there is far less worry of any passes being complete. Also, balls thrown his way are caught by him and released to the offense. Peanut Tillman just creates havoc with the ball. He has both forced fumbles and interceptions covered.
S: Stevie Brown, NYG; Earl Thomas, SEA
Brown just gets interceptions. I like that in a safety, earn the name of the position. Earl prevents anything from going deep. If Earl could catch, he would be the scariest defender in the league.
P: Brandon Fields, MIA
I want my punter to kick the crap out of the ball. Especially, if my offense is going to be terrible. Fields has taken a page out of Reggie Roby’s book. He led the league with a 50.2 average. Some people would argue he out kicks his coverage. Guess what? Get better on coverage fellas.
Yesterday, suspensions were lifted from the New Orleans Saints’ players involved in the bounty scandal. The exoneration of these players came from Paul Tagliabue, Former NFL Commissioner. Tagliabue was independently contracted by Roger Goodell to, essentially, review the case to ensure fairness and justification. However, this sort of “blew up” in Goodell’s face.
Tagliabue’s verdict was these four players, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita, and Jonathan Vilma, were simply obeying their coaching staff. Also, to only punish these four players was unjust. Tagliabue added most, if not all, of the blame goes to the coaching staff. Apparently, the Saints coaching staff (among other teams’ coaching staffs) was warned multiple times about any kind of “pay for performance” programs. The fact Gregg Williams, former Saints Defensive Coordinator, admitted to implementing such a program all but damns the Saints’ staff.
This probably means punishments handed down to Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, among others on the Saints’ staff, will most likely be upheld.
As for the players, Will Smith was quoted saying, “The damage is done.” Regardless of these suspensions being lifted, each player’s reputation is tainted.
Jonathan Vilma is currently pursuing a defamation lawsuit stemming from this investigation. Vilma was accused of holding $10k in the Saints locker room before a playoff game in 2009, pledging to give it to whoever could take out Kurt Warner (former Arizona quarterback). These allegations were never proven, thus fueling Vilma’s case.
Before Goodell took office as Commissioner of the NFL, I have to believe most (if not all) teams had a similar “pay for performance” program under the table. Football is a violent sport, and taking an opposing key player out of the game gives your team an advantage. I’ve done it. I tried sliding into the shortstop covering 2nd base in high school. He was 3 for 3 with four RBIs in fifth inning. Taking him out gave our team a better chance to win (for the record, I took him out and in the process, sprained my own ankle).
Let me make one thing clear – I don’t condone this behavior. It’s morally wrong to put incentives toward hurting someone. What I am saying is to not punish the players who are following orders. And don’t punish one team just because the league has more evidence on them than any other team. This is a league issue and a coaching issue. It’s not specific to a team or any players.
In all reality, Goodell lost a lot of clout in the eyes of coaches and players. To have these players’ suspensions annulled by his own predecessor is both embarrassing and humbling. Goodell contracted Tagliabue in hopes he would take Goodell’s side. Now, based on Tagliabue’s ruling in favor of the players, Goodell is staring at the possibility of having to pay Jonathan Vilma money in a defamation suit.
From now on, every punishment Goodell tries to dole out will be questioned, and most likely be appealed. His only chance to save face at this point is to fire his publicist and hire someone who can change his image. Mr. Goodell, I am available.
On Saturday evening, the NCAA crowned their 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Football (aka Johnny Manziel). I’ve heard reasons why Manziel is the rightful winner of this coveted trophy, and I’ve heard how Collin Klein (from Kansas State) and Manti Te’o (from Notre Dame) were both robbed.
The case could be made for any of the three players. All three players lead their respective teams to a better record than last year. All three players set records this year in some fashion. But this year, I believe the winner was more deserving than any other winner in recent years.
Here’s a quick synopsis of Collin Klein’s year. The guy had 37 total touchdowns (22 rushing, 15 passing). He had 3,380 total yards (890 rushing, 2,490) and completed 66 percent of his passes. He also led the Wildcats to a top-10 rank in ‘points scored.’ Overall, these are Heisman caliber stats; however, his one blemish was quite nasty.
On November 17th, Kansas State traveled to Baylor and got their rear-ends handed to them. In the 52-24 rout, Klein threw three interceptions (to his two TDS), and had a passer rating of 103, the worst of his year. Baylor also held him to less than 40 yards rushing, the lowest rushing total of his year. This one game may be the reason he wasn’t holding the Heisman on Saturday night.
As for Manti Te’o, his season is obviously a little harder to quantify, being that he is a linebacker. One needs to take into account the entire defensive unit when comparing Te’o. For instance, Notre Dame’s defense is the top ranked team for ‘points allowed’ (10.3 PPG). Their defense also kept EVERY team from scoring on a drive longer than 75 yards. Every other defense allowed three or more of those drives.
Personally, Te’o made seven interceptions, which is three more than any other linebacker. The most staggering statistic is this: he, alone, made 103 tackles this year while ONLY MISSING TWO TACKLES. Yes – TWO. Manti Te’o misses one tackle for every 51.5 that he makes. Te’o lacks the blemish on his season that Klein has, and is feared by every offense facing him. I believe he will also be feared on any given Sunday in the very near future.
However, despite Te’o’s stellar year, only one man (who has only been a man for two years, officially) had a more impressive year. That man is Johnny Football.
Manziel gained 4,600 yards this year (1,181 rushing, 3,419 passing), which broke Cam Newton’s record from 2010. Manziel accounted for 43 touchdown plays this year, tied for the most in 2012. He also had 70 plays that equated to more than a 20-yard gain. That’s ten more than the closest challenger. Of those 70 plays, 13 of them were scrambles, or unplanned/broken plays. On top of that, seven of those scrambles turned into touchdowns!
Manziel threw for almost 1,000 more yards than Klein and completed 68 percent of his passes. He also beat the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide along the way. He led the Aggies to 29 points against the 2nd ranked defense in the land (10.7 PPG, only behind the Irish), temporarily dashing Alabama’s hopes of a repeat trip to the National Championship game.
The most impressive part about Johnny Manziel’s year is that he did all of this AS A FRESHMAN! No one has EVER seen a performance like this out of someone who turned 20 two days before being handed the Heisman (let alone a white kid too!).
The Heisman Trophy is supposed to go to the best college football player in the land. This year, no one is more feared than Johnny Football. His ability to turn a broken play into the play of the game is uncanny. His scrambling ability behind his excellent pocket presence makes him an absolute force for years to come. Can you imagine three more years of this? Can Manziel win four Heisman Trophy Awards?
Answer: …probably not. But if there is one man in this world who can do it, it’s got to be Johnny Manziel.
Since Madden Football was released in the 1990s, something fishy has happened to whoever graces the cover of this widely popular video game. Some call it a curse, but I beg to differ.
Believers of this curse like to point out all the players who were featured on the cover of Madden who were hurt in the following year, starting with Dorsey Levens.
In 1999, Levens had a 1,000 yard season with the Packers, which was an impressive feat for that pass-happy Favre offense. After such a year, Madden used Levens’ likeness for the cover of his game. The next year, the Packers running back suffered a knee injury. However, only two years prior, before appearing on the front of the game, Levens injured that same knee. Re-injuring the same body part multiple times while in the NFL is not only possible, it’s probable. Levens was old and coming off a knee injury. He was bound to get hurt, regardless if he appeared on Madden’s cover.
Next, believers of this fabled curse like to point out players with off-field issues after making an appearance on the cover. Subjects include Michael Vick, Brett Favre, and Vince Young.
Here’s something people need to realize: Football stars typically have big personalities. Players with big personalities, especially in this unprecedented media-hungry world, have no privacy.
We all know the story of Michael Vick. His off-field issues with dog fighting was covered and covered (and I think even the Media mentioned it a few times).
We also know about Brett Favre and his “prick pic.” No need to get too deep into that mess…
In the 2008 season, right after he appeared on the cover, Vince Young reportedly disappeared. The story quickly became about Young’s bout with depression.
There are other players like Shaun Alexander and Adrian Peterson. When Alexander was on the cover, he had just signed a big contract, and like Chris Johnson, took the next year off. Peterson, like many other Madden “cover-boys,” plays one of the most volatile positions in the game, running back. There isn’t a running back in the league who has hasn’t had a significant injury. Alexander suffered the same fate as well.
Here’s my point: We know just about everything about any celebrity in this instant-media age. We don’t know much about players from earlier eras. The media then didn’t have twitter, or email, or cell phones. Information was so much harder to gather and publish. News was only published on newspapers (whatever those are) and on one of 3 network television channels. Sports news competed with world news, current events, and weather.
Fran Tarkenton is heralded as a great player from the past. And he might have been featured if the game existed back then. The same could be said about Steve Largent (go Hawks), Walter Payton, or Johnny Unitas. Any one of these guys could have been doing what Vick, Favre, and/or Young were doing; we just wouldn’t know a thing about it (please note: I’m not claiming any of these fine upstanding citizens did any of the aforementioned activities).
Finally, the folks at EA Sports chose a player without a big personality who is clearly in his prime without a major injury history: Megatron (aka Calvin Johnson).
Johnson currently is on pace to have more yards than he did last year. That would mean he will have improved his receiving yard total four years in a row. He clearly is improving and still may be yet to show us his true potential (side note: can you imagine that guy with a QB like Brees or Brady…holy smokes).
As for his character, the guy has yet to show up in any tabloid-esque situations in his 6-year career. The only thing I’ve seen Johnson in is a classy Acura commercial sporting a pair of boxer briefs showing off his god-like physique…I digress.
Consider this Madden Curse BROKEN, all you curse advocates. Not only am I skeptical in the first place, Calvin Johnson has the strength, the ability, and the class (and the ass) to beat this so-called curse.
He’s also on my fantasy team, so I may be a hopeful curse-skeptic…
When I visited the front page on ESPN.com this morning, the first picture I saw was of Robinson Cano, as the Yankees won the AL East last night over the lowly Red Sox (that’s 93 losses for Boston this year, by the way!). Cleary this is a case of ESPN’s east coast bias.
While Disney’s sports news channel is busy covering 4½ hour games including a team that has as many losses as the Miami Marlins, Miguel Cabrera completed his quest for brilliance. His 44 HRs, 139 RBIs, and .330 batting average earned just the tenth Triple Crown in baseball history.
The last Triple Crown was earned in 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski banged out 44 HRs, 121 RBIs and batted .326. Compare the ten Triple Crowns to the 23 Perfect Games thrown in Baseball history. Cabrera’s accomplishment is more than twice as rare as a Perfect Game.
Miguel Cabrera had an amazing year. But relatively, how amazing was it really?
Over the last ten years, only two league-leading batters had a worse batting average than Miguel’s (2003 and 2008). The best average of those years came in 2004 from Seattle’s own Ichiro (.372).
Also, in 2001, Todd Helton had 49 HRs, 146 RBIs, and batted .336 – all better stats than Miguel Cabrera put up this year. But he didn’t even come close to winning the Triple Crown.
The offensive competition has been better in the past.
However, the pitching has never been better.
The league’s overall ERA has never been lower since the turn of the millennium. More strikeouts have been recorded, and the league’s average WHIP (walk + hits/innings pitched) also was the lowest it’s been since Y2K.
Baseball is a funny game. Statistical significance is completely different from year to year. Todd Helton’s 2001 was in the midst of the “Juicing Era.” Pitchers were getting shelled every night, leading to the highest ERA and the lowest strikeout total over the past 12 years.
Even as Cabrera completes the Triple Crown, some people still think Mike Trout should win the AL MVP award. Trout is younger, faster, and a better fielder. But Miggy strikes fear in the hearts every pitcher each time he steps to the plate. Trout will have his time, but Miguel Cabrera deserves the MVP this year.
Any guy who completes the Triple Crown had an absolutely phenomenal year. All season, he seemed to make the game look easy, as he took pornographic swings at pitches at his eyes, while hitting the ball 430 feet into someone’s nacho tray.
Leading the league in the top three batting categories is no small feat; especially in a year where he was accused of being an alcoholic in March. Regardless if those accusations are true or not, throw ‘em back, Miggy. MVP or not, you and Justin Verlander just lead the Tigers to the post-season. Cheers!
What an interesting start to the NFL season! The Patriots lost to the Arizona Cardinals’ backup QB. The Redskins AND the Panthers beat the Saints. How exciting! As all this early drama goes down in professional “Smear the Queer,” one question came to mind…Does anyone know baseball is still going on?! Since most people would probably answer “NO,” here’s a quick snapshot of where things stand:
The National League Division leaders are all but officially set. The Nationals will win the East, Cincinnati will win the Central, and the Giants have clubbed their way back to the top spot in the West. The wildcard, however, is getting very interesting.
Remember, this year there are two wildcard spots available in each league. Assuming the Braves don’t blow it again this year, six teams are within five games of the last playoff spot.
Currently, the Cardinals are ahead of the pack, but the Dodgers, Brewers, Pirates, Phillies, and Diamondbacks are well within striking distance (1, 2.5, 3, 4, 4.5 games out, respectively). With about 16 games left on the schedule, the Brewers have gone to BEAST MODE again, winning their last 7 of 10.
The Phillies looked like they were making a run at the top spot as well, but have dropped two straight to the worst team in the MLB, the Houston “Jetson Dogs.” The Cinderella-esque Pirates have also shot themselves in the glass slipper dropping 8 of their last 10.
Realistically, barring any statistical anomaly, The Dodgers and Brew-Crew could easily steal the last spot from the reigning champs.
Speaking of statistical anomalies, the Baltimore Orioles are just that. Only one 1 game from the Yankees in the East and sporting a 2.5 game lead for the last wildcard spot, the Orioles have the best 1-run-game winning percentage baseball has ever seen. They’re 27-8 in such games, and 13-2 in extra-inning games. It’s as if Tim Tebow is an Orioles fan…
From the AL Central, the White Sox are holding a 2-game lead over the Tigers. The Sox have also won their last three, desperately trying to widen that gap. Whoever wins that division will probably be the only team from the AL Central making the playoffs.
The Oakland A’s have a pretty good grip on the top wildcard spot in the AL. They trail the Rangers in the AL West by 3 games, who have the 2nd best run differential in the league (+123 runs). Only the Nationals (+128) are ahead of them. The Angels are also hanging around, only 2.5 games behind Baltimore for a wildcard spot. It might be too little too late for the Angels though…no thanks to Albert Pujols.
So remember sports fans; baseball is just getting interesting. Tune in to a game on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday when football isn’t monopolizing your television. Feel free to watch re-runs of Two and a Half Men between pitches though.